The UK Court of Appeal has overturned the judgment in the R (Bridges) v CC South Wales case made by a high court in Cardiff in favour of the use of automated facial recognition technology (AFR technology) by the South Wales Police Force (SWP).
The appeals court ruled that use of the technology had violated privacy rights, data protection laws, and equality laws. The South Wales Police Force has confirmed that they will not appeal against the judgment by the appeals court.
The appeals court has also overturned the high court’s finding that the legal framework relied upon by the police force does not protect the privacy rights of individuals. Besides, it ruled that the South Wales Police Force did not take account of the discriminatory impact of the AFR technology adequately, and also did not meet its obligations under equality laws.
Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding said: “The Court has agreed that this dystopian surveillance tool violates our rights and threatens our liberties. Facial recognition discriminates against people of colour, and it is absolutely right that the Court found that South Wales Police had failed in their duty to investigate and avoid discrimination.”
The case, which was put up in May 2019 by Edward Bridges, a Cardiff resident, and represented by Liberty, a UK campaign group, was dismissed last September by the high court in Cardiff on the grounds that the use of the AFR technology by the police had met the requirements of the Human Rights Act.
In his legal challenge, Bridges alleged that his face was scanned twice by the camera during a pilot of the facial recognition technology by the South Wales Police Force. The trial, known as AFR Locate was one of the two pilot projects that were assessed by the police force before launching the technology throughout Wales.
According to Liberty, the judgment in the appeals court means that the police force leading the use of facial recognition on British streets have to stop its long-running trial.
South Wales Police Force Chief Constable Matt Jukes said: “There is, and should be, a political and public debate about wider questions of privacy and security. It would be wrong in principle for the police to set the bounds of our use of new technology for ourselves.
“So, this decision is welcome but of course, not the end of the wider debate. I hope policing will be supported by that continuing in an informed way with bodies such as Liberty who brought this action and Government each playing their valuable role.”